Finishing Up My Stuff About France So I Can Finally Move Along to the Rest of Spring Break!
SO…. I am back from my crazy 5 week spring break and I have been lazy in posting again since the sheer amount of experiences and photos has almost overwhelmed me to even try. But I am trying now, and I hope that you still enjoy the posts even though they will be recounting stuff that happened over a month ago..
Day 3: Disneyland Paris!
One of the more amazing days in Paris, simply because I LOVE Disneyland! To begin the metro ride to Disneyland (yes there is a train that stops at a station that is across from the entrance of Disneyland) was fun because we were serenaded by a saxophonist for half an hour!
Once at Disneyland Arlene and I pretty much just looked at the map, discovered that Toon Town doesn’t exist, and then made a general plan to see everything in the two parks in one day. We started in the Disneyland theme park. On our way to the first stop, we discovered a lot of similarities and differences about the park from first glance. First, the castle is totally different from the one in Anaheim, but that was kinda expected.
Second, Big Thunder Mountain was on the island in the center of the lake that the steamboat goes around. Third, instead of turkey legs, pickles, and churros the stands sold crepes, coffee, sandwiches. So WEIRD!
First Stop: the Haunted Mansion. It was scarier in the way that it looked, a lot scarier, than the one at home. But since the ENITRE narrative was in French, can’t say anything that was said truly scared me. The whole story was different though, from what I can tell it is based around a bride-to-be that was apparently murdered before she was able to be wed. The dancing ball room is a bunch of ghosts at the wedding reception. But the singing heads are still there in the big “outdoor” forest section, and they sing in ENGLISH! That was all that I understood the whole ride.
After the Haunted Mansion we found a section of the park that legitamately looked like Yellostone National Park.
It seemed so random, but at the same time, it was kinda cool! From the Haunted Mansion we headed to the Indiana Jones ride. On the way we saw a drum circle being held by a man with a crazy headdress. Can’t say I didn’t want to stop and drum too! Once at the ride we discovered there is nothing similar about it to the one at home. It is outdoors and is more like a rollercoaster than the indoors track ride in Anaheim. It has a loop for goodness sake! The wait was long, but the ride was so cool just because of how different it was. I kept waiting for the moment where we went inside, but it never came.
Near Indiana Jones was what they called “Robinson Crusoe Island” in lieu of the original Tom Sawyer, not Pirates, Island. It looked so crowded with kids and parents that we decided to avoid it. We then wanted to go on Pirates of the Caribbean, but it was closed that day. Which was a HUGE bummer for us since we LOVE the Pirates ride at Disneyland in Anaheim and we really wanted to compare the two. Instead we crossed through Agrabah to get back to the main street to get to Fantasyland! The castle is going under a TON of reconstruction, so we passed through scaffolding and such to get there.
In Fantasyland we decided to go onto the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ride since that was the only one that we don’t have at Disneyland at home anymore!
Waiting in line was kinda awkward though since most adult-like people in line had one or two kids with them. Unlike us, just two adults standing in line for a kids ride…. no big deal. I forgot how short all of the kids rides were, 35 minues in line for less than 5 minutes on a ride. After Snow White Arlene and I just wandered around Fantasyland seeing what kinds of attractions they had and debating whether or not it was worth it to wait for them. We found the tea cups, and they have an AWESOME glass, decorated roof over them in case of rain (because it does that in France, more so than in Cali).
Another cool attraction was the Alice in Wonderland “Curious Labyrinth,” instead of that ride where you sit in the different colored catepillars, there was simply an out door maze for kids and their parents to walk though! I really wanted to go inside, but the wait was far too long for it to be worth it….
In true “must see” Disneyland fashion, our next ride was It’s a Small World! Unfortunately, I haven’t been on this ride in FOREVER back in California, so I can’t say if it is really all the different. We got on a boat, floated all around the world hearing the same song in different languages. Sounds about the same to me!
From It’s a Small World it was on to the one ride I was totally stoked for - Space Mountain!
Here is the breakdown for this ride, WAY more awesome than the one in Anaheim. First, when you are going up the hill before you drop in to space, the side of the tube opens and you can see a fair amount of the park right before you are shot off. Second, THERE IS A LOOP!!!! Third, there are 360 inversions throughout. Finally, it goes WAY faster than the one at home. I wish I could have ridden this one 4-5 times before the park closed! Alas, we don’t have season passes so we didn’t have time to come back and do so.
From Space Mountain we decided that we should have some food and each bought a hot dog at one of the stands nearby (they also sold crepes). We then stood in line for Buzz Lightyear while finishing out hot dogs. The funniest part of the ride is the part when you are standing in line and there is that HUGE Buzz Lightyear in the center of the room and he is breaking down the plan to defeat Zerg (sp?) and at the end he says, “To infinity and beyond!” At this Disneyland, like most rides, the entire thing was in French. So I now officially have a video of “to infinity and beyond” in French. :D
After the Buzz Lightyear ride (where I totally kicked Arlene’s butt!) it was off to purchase souveniers and then on to the next theme park - Walt Disney Studios!
Walt Disney Studios in France = California Adventure in California
To enter into Walt Disney Studios you pass through the entrance gates and then this building that is filled with different restaurants. The whole idea of these restaurants is to give the air of someone entering into Hollywood. There are “props” and faux video cameras and other such things that would be found on a movie set strewn about the building. Also, each restaurant’s name is something commonly heard of in movies or tv shows; for instance one such place was called Hollywood and Vine. Plus, you know, the HUGE backdrops that are made to look like Hollywood and the Hollywood Hills….
Once on the other side of the building we noticed a few differences in Walt Disney Studios from California Adventure. First it was a bit smaller than California Adventure. Second, that part of C.A. where you walk towards the “endless street” is about the same in Walt Disney Studios, except that at the “wall” there is an entrance to a backlot tram ride, akin to what one would see at Universal Studios. Also, there were a ton of different rides at Walt Disney Studios. They had a parachute drop themed after the Toy Story Army Men, they had an RC Racer which was a car that went back and forth on a really tall vert ramp, they had an Aladdin Flying Carpet Ride, and they had Crush’s Coaster!
The first ride we went on though was the Tower of Terror! Arlene and I decided to play the penny game while we were on the ride. The penny game is where you hold a penny in the palm of your hand and watch it float in midair as you drop from the top of the ride. My penny didn’t end up back in my hand, but Arlene had hers the whole time. Made the ride a lot more interesting. Our picture from the top is both of us looking at our hands waiting for it to happen!
After that we went on Crush’s Coaster! On this ride the actual thing where the people sit looks like a large turtle shell and there are four seats, two facing forwards and two facing backwards. The idea of the roller coaster is that you are riding on the EAC so the actual ride turns in a 360. At the beginning of the ride Arlene and I were at the back of the shell so the whole first part we ended up going “uphill” facing down then inside the actual ride we were turned forwards for a bit, sideways, backwards, and sideways again until we ended the ride facing forwards! It was so much fun! They need to get one at California Adventure PRONTO!
After Crush’s Coaster we didn’t really have any interest in the other rides there so we went back to Disneyland to try to see the Captain Eo Show that they had behind Space Mountain, but we were too late and missed the last showing. :(
I was super bummed because I couldn’t believe they had the show running there on a daily basis. I heard they brought it back for a tribute to Michael Jackson at the Disneyland in Anaheim but I wasn’t sure if they had kept it installed or not.
By the time we had ran back into Disneyland and tried to get to the show it was late and time for dinner. Where better to go than the Disney Village (like Downtown Disney).
At the Disney Village we decided to skip Planet Hollywood and Buffalo Bills Wild West and have dinner at Rainforest Cafe. I know, kinda lame since we have one in Downtown Disney, but at that point I just wanted something I recognized. So we finally sat down after a long day of walking around two theme parks and enjoyed our amazing dinner. After dinner it was time to say goodbye to Disneyland Paris and head back to Arlene’s place since she had school the next day. It was an amazing experience being able to see a Disneyland Park outside of the US, and I am really glad I was able to go!
Day 4: Falafels, Moulin Rouge, and Escargot
It was a Monday so most of the day was spent sitting at Arlene’s school while she was in class. But for lunch we went to this FANTASTIC Falafel place that Arlene and her classmates go to during their lunch break. It is literally 5 euro for the most stuffed falafel, and then to top it off they put chips (french fries) on top! I needed a fork to eat almost the entire thing there was so much stuff in it.
Then we went back to Arlene’s school and I waited around for her to get out of her last class because I was so excited for the plans we had for that day after class - THE MOULIN ROUGE! Now, I know that the actual Moulin Rouge is a very, very, very expensive place to go see nearly naked women dance on stage, but I am completely obsessed with the movie and HAD to see the place that the movie is based off of for myself. Though we didn’t get to go inside, it was still enough just to stand outside of it and just take the sight of the classic windmill and the red building.
Arlene and I ended up going with Lucille, a girl from her class, and Lindsey, Arlene’s roommate. It just so happens, right behind the person taking this picture (not sure if it was Lucille or Lindsey) there is a ginormous vent, I believe for the metro. Supposedly this vent is the original spot for the Marilyn Monroe white-dress-flying-up photo! Not sure if that is 100% correct, but for me I like to entertain the fact that something attributing two of my biggest crazy/weird obsessions - Moulin Rouge and Marilyn Monroe - are located across the street from each other. Makes me a very happy camper!
After the photo shoot of what we could see of the Moulin Rouge, all four of us went around the corner to an English Pub and sat down for a late afternoon drink! A Guinness for Arlene, Lucille, and myself and a cider for Lindsey. It was just a nice afternoon sitting around and chatting about whatever. Once the sun started to go down we figured it was time to leave an area that was close to the Parisian red light district and head back to our respective places of lodging.
Later that evening when we were ready for dinner Arlene, Leslie (Arlene’s other roommate), and I went to dinner in Mouftard at a place called La Grange. I tried taking a picture of the front of the building and almost got run over by a car backing up into a parking spot so I decided not to take it till after our meal. Dinner was one of the more interesting ones that I have had in France - Appitizer of Escargot and Fondue for the Main. The best part about escargot is that is tastes exactly like whatever it is cooked in, so if you put enough flavor into the cooking of it you kinda forget it is a snail. Besides the fact that you had to get the meat out of an actual snail shell…
The fondue was so delicious! Cheese and different meats and bread…mmmmmmmm. For dessert we all had chocolate fondue with different fruits and stuff, also very delicious! Needless to say after that amazing meal I was stuffed for the rest of the night!
Day 5: Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and an attempt at the Louvre
Tuesday = no school for Arlene = LOTS OF SIGHTSEEING!
First stop of the day was the Eiffel Tower! Thankfully it was a beautiful day so the sky was nice and blue and the weather was decently warm! Once we got to the Eiffel Tower we had to wait in line to get tickets where we were suddenly surrounded by voices of many different languages other than French. It was nice to be at a super touristy spot for the first time since I had arrived, it meant more English speakers, or at least less French speakers. The wait wasn’t too terrible and the next thing you know we are in line for the huge lift to take us to the main sightseeing level around the middle of the tower.
After doing a full lap of the main sightseeing deck it was then time to stand in line again to catch another lift to the very top of the tower! This line was a bit slower, but the lift ride was a lot better because there were windows where most of the walls were so you could see outside for the entire ride to the top!
Once at the top of the Eiffel Tower we did almost the same thing that we did at the other sightseeing deck, took a lap around the whole thing to get a full 360 view of Paris!
At the top there is also an office where Mr. Gustave Eiffel used to do his work and have meetings about the building and enhancing of his tower. Also at the top is a Champagne Bar, kinda like a place to celebrate making it to the top safely or something. Or better yet, possibly to celebrate marriage proposals…. or just a way to take the edge off for those who don’t especially like heights. I guess there are a few good reasons to have a champagne bar on the top of the Eiffel Tower. There is an inside section to the viewing deck with the location and distance of every country from every side of the Eiffel Tower. Arlene and I looked through them on our way to the line to get on the elevator back down. The overall experience at the top of the Eiffel Tower reminded me a great deal of being at the top of the Empire State Building in New York!
After the Eiffel Tower we went over to Notre Dame! But not before stopping for a crepe to hold us over until lunch! Notre Dame to me has only ever reminded me of the Disney movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I have never really thought about what it looked like outside of the cartoonish image that was ingrained in my head every time I watched the movie! So the whole “seeing the Notre Dame in person” was a big deal for me. I would just like to say that my first thought of it was, “When do I get to go into the towers?” Only to be followed by, “Holy crap, it is HUGE!”
Notre Dame is one of the most beautiful cathedrals that I have had the opportunity to step into and see for myself while I am off on this side of the world. I honestly feel like no one makes buildings like this anymore and it is a shame because the architecture and the stained glass just made me speechless almost the whole time I was inside.
There were so many tributes to different important people in carrying out God’s word; from Joan of Ark to Pope John Paul II. Also inside are tombs of bishops that have been long dead and gone, along with mosaics of different appearances of Jesus Christ that have been written in the bible. Walking though Notre Dame you can see how the history of the building and the religion celebrated within it have changed and grown over the many, many years of the cathedral’s existence.
After the awe-inspiring tour of the inside Arlene and I wandered around the outside of the Notre Dame. We wanted to get a big picture of how this massive cathedral looked inside and out! We found a little park behind it where we sat and relaxed while we waited for Leslie to meet up with us.
Once Leslie was with us, we finished our tour around the outside of the Notre Dame and found some rollerbladers weaving in and out of mini-cones and doing 360 jumps over a battered looking rope. After watching them we moved on and found a place to have lunch together. After lunch Leslie went to class and Arlene and I went to the Louvre. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until we got to the Louvre that we remembered it was closed on Tuesdays. Lo and behold it was a Tuesday… so that was a fail. But we did get to see where the pyramids meet underground from the movie The Da Vinci Code!
After the Louvre, Round 1, my feet were aching so we headed back to Arlene’s place where we chillaxed for the rest of the night.
Day 6: Visitors Arrive, Arc De Triumphe, Champs-Elysees, and A Night to (try to) Remember
That morning Caitlin and her friend Jessica arrived in Paris to visit Arlene and see the city! Since Arlene had class Leslie and I decided to take charge of touring them around.
The first stop was a gelato shop that Leslie heard about from a friend or something that we just HAD to try. It was a cute little shop with over 30 kinds of gelato and sherbert. It took me forever to make a decision! I think I ended up with lemon and strawberry? I honeslty can’t remember anymore, what I can remember is that it tasted amazing! All of it! Between Jess, Caitlin, Leslie and myself we had a lot of flavors to try. Gelato in hand we wandered around the area for a bit till Leslie realized where she wanted to take us next.
The next stop was a trip by the Hotel De Ville, a fancy schmancy hotel indeed with lots of statues and towers and stuff.
While we were taking photos of this lovely place, Jess was smacked (literally smacked) in the face by a homeless woman who was sitting on the ground near the hotel. She was yelling angrily in French, but speaking too fast for Leslie to get what she was saying. My theory was that she thought Jess was taking a picture of her.
After that Leslie had to say au revoir and head off to class herself, we walked her most of the way back and then headed to the Notre Dame Cathedral, the second time for me! Because I was actually getting the hang of the area I took them to the cathedral, I was quite proud of my tour guiding skills after only 6 days of being there! Also, it was nice to be able to really take in Notre Dame and not be running around with a camera in my hand trying to document every last inch of the place so I could remember it later. Around the outside and behind the cathedral Jessica, Caitlin, and I played at the park for a bit.
While we were at the park some of Paris’s finest army men decided to make sure the park was safe with their AK47’s in hand.
After the park we made our way back to Arlene’s school so we could pick her up and continue our tour of Paris. Next stop a modern art museum near Arlene’s campus. It looked totally crazy from the inside, but so was the price. So we decided not to go there. Instead we took a metro to the Champs_-Elysees and walk along the entire street of high fashion and uppity restaurants. At the end of that street was the Arc De Triumphe! First we took some pics of us in front of it from across the street. Then we spent the next 15 minutes figuring out how to get across the HUGE 6 lane traffic circle so we could be right next to it. While we were wandering around the perimeter looking for a set of stairs to go under, I suggested we run across. No one thought I would be able to make it. To this day I am still convinced I could have made it there. We did end up finding the staircase, after we had walked almost 180 degrees around the circle.
Once at the Arc, we proceeded to attempt to read all of the plaques (hard to do since they were in French) about what/who the Arc was dedicated to. All in all, the Arc was a great monument to go see, I thought it was really neat.
By the time we were done seeing the Arc de Triumphe we were all pretty much exhausted; especially Caitlin and Jess who were running on about 4-5 hours of sleep in the past few days. So we went back to Arlene’s, after grabbing a bite to eat at a cafe along the way, and we all passed out for a nap. Best idea ever since we were going out that night. We all woke up and got ready to go out and began pre-drinking a bit later than we should have. Totally worth it in the end though.
We began our night with a cheers akin to that in the movie “The Hangover.” I wish of a good night that no one will forget followed with a clink of drinks.
Note the eye contact though! In France, and most of Europe, it is considered bad luck to not keep eye contact until the clinking of the glasses has been completed. Apparently, if you do not have eye contact you will have seven years of bad sex. Something most people are not willing to risk in their lives. ;)
After pre-drinking we had to rush to the Metro before the last train left the station so we could get to this club on Champs-Elysees. Needless to say, we missed the last train halfway there. It took us a while to figure out we missed it because we were having too much fun on the platform to notice the time. We were forced to leave the station and find two separate taxis. We were over going to the special club so we just went to CapRouge instead until it closed.
The process of getting there was an experience in itself - having to wait for both cabs to get there, handling our bathroom needs, falling into doorways, and others I am sure. Finally at CapRouge, it was nice to just sit and relax for about an hour or so… until it closed. Quite an interesting night for the six of us, and we were ready for bed when we got back to the apartment.
Day 7: The Louvre and the First Attempt to Get Back to Cardiff_
A late start this day due to the fact that we went out the night previous. Since I was leaving we only planned on lunch and the Louvre before I had to take the tram into the airport.
Lunch was delicious, this cafe right around the corner from Arlene’s place. All of us made sure to get something heavy to help with the recovering process. The only downside was that lunch literally took us two hours! I am positive it took like 40 minutes to get the check.
Once we were finally on our way to the Louvre I was feeling a bit less stressed, but I was getting bummed at the lack of time I would have inside. When we arrived we made sure to do the big tour and photo shoot from the outside with the glass pyramid.
Then we traversed into the secret entrance to the ticket machines away from all of the lines and made a bee line for the most important pieces. The first on the list was Winged Victory. Next was the Mona Lisa, my personal goal for this trip was to see this one! I still get super excited when I think that I got to actually to see THE Mona Lisa, the original, one of the most talked about and recreated pieces in history. Just unbelievable!! We also saw the Venus di Milo! That was also amazing to see in person. But my favorite statue that I saw at the Louvre was Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss.
We spent a good couple of hours in the Louvre and then we had to put the pedal to the metal so that we could go back to Arlene’s apartment and grab my stuff so that we could head to the main metro station and I could grab the metro to the airport. It felt like it took forever to get back and just get on the train. It didn’t help that I had grown very comfortable being in Paris for a whole week. The goodbye was so hard and I then had an hour and a half train to just think and try to keep from crying. Worst metro ride ever!
When I finally got the airport I realized that I had ten minutes to run to the total opposite end of the airport before my gate closed. That mean going up two escalators and booking it what felt like half a mile in a crowded airport. As I ran up to the gate I looked for the “Bristol” heading and couldn’t see it. So I asked an EasyJet employee and they explained that if I didn’t see the heading my gate had closed and I had missed my flight. At that point all of the emotional hell that was already in my system was amplified by about 100 and I had to force myself to get composed enough to rebook my flight. Another 50 euros later I had a fight for the same time the next day and I had no other choice but to head back to Arlene’s place.
Two major problems with this plan. One, I had no credit on my phone to let anyone know that I was stuck in Paris. Two, I didn’t have enough change to buy a ticket back to the city. The first idea of mine was to try to top-up my phone online, since Vodaphone doesn’t exist in France at all. The only problem with that is that Vodaphone doesn’t accept US Debit cards because they can’t figure out the address. So getting credit on my phone was a no go. The next idea I had was to make change from one of my euro notes at the “exchange” desk. Turns out that they don’t make change for free, you have to buy a 10 euro phone card and get coin change after that purchase. I was in no mood to try to argue with it and purchased the card just to get the change so I could buy the stupid RER ticket back.
Only after I purchased the RER ticket did I realize I now had a way to to get a hold of people and tried calling Arlene to let her know what happened. She was in a class so I just left her a voicemail and jumped on the next RER to Paris. Once back in Paris I took the train to the school of hers I had visited and found all the doors locked and most of the lights off. I decided to wait at the front steps to her school until her class got out at nine. Well that was my decision until it started getting dark outside and I began to think that maybe I would be safer waiting for her or her roommates at her apartment.I found another payphone and updated Arlene on my plan.
I quickly jumped back on the metro and went to her place and waited in the foyer of her building for someone to come home and let me in. I think it was about fifteen minutes before Lindsey came home and let me in the the apartment where I waited for everyone to get home, emotionally exhausted and embarassed that I had missed my flight. Also, Arlene’s class was at a different campus than the one that I had been to so that was a fail as well. I fell asleep very easily that night because of how drained I was.
Day 8: FINALLY made it back to Cardiff. The End.